Ford Zephyr Six Mark 1

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Ford Zephyr Six Mark 1


Ford Zephyr Six Mark 1

1951 - 1956
United Kingdom
6 cyl.
106 bhp at 4750 rpm
3 spd. auto
Top Speed:
80 mph / 130 km/h
Number Built:
148,629 saloons and 4048 convertibles
2 star
Ford Zephyr Six Mark 1
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2

Competing With The Holden

Holden 48/215 off the line in November 1948 - however Chifley was approaching the ignominious end of his period in power. Three years later Ford introduced a challenger - the Mark One Ford Zephyr. The question many were asking was how would it compete with the Holden, particularly given the Ford product lacked the romance of being "Australia's Own Car".

Despite outward appearances, both the FJ Holden and Zephyr had a lot in common. Both were powered by small capacity sixes, the Holden's displacing 2171cm3 and the Zephyr's 2262cm3. In straight line performance there was little difference and both were hotshots in their day with quicker acceleration than most other family sedans and some sports cars (the MG TF, for example) and top speeds slightly over 80 mph (almost 130 km/h) - again an almost identical figure to the more sporty MG TF.

Both the FJ Holden and Zephyr used a three-speed gearbox with a column shift and no synchromesh on first. There was no finesse in either gearshift, but anyone could master the changes. Both had heavy clutches and heavy steering - however contemporary road tests from the era indicate that it was the Zephyr that had the edge with a fraction more directness. As for the brakes - both were horrid by today's standards - brute force being required.

Three Box Styling

That's about where the major similarities ended. The Holden's styling was virtually pre-World War 2, while the Zephyr's was of the then new "three-box" variety - it was considered rakishly streamlined when the model was announced in 1951. But there were few that cared what the FJ looked like. It was a Holden and that was good enough. It killed the Zephyr in the sales stakes.

By 1954 GM-H had a huge lead over Ford - almost 40,000 cars for that year compared with almost 30,000 Fords. What made Holden's record so good was that it had one model competing against Ford's multi-car lineup, which included the Zephyr, the Consul (a four-cylinder version of the same design), the big V8 Customline and the Anglia/Prefect range. The only choice you could make at your Holden dealer was which level of trim you wanted, the Standard, the Business sedan or the Special. And we shouldn't forget the ute and a panel-van.

The Mark 1 Zephyr's body was much lower and sleeker than the FJ Holden - and that gave it better handling over the FJ with its high centre of gravity. Inside the cabin the Zephy was more modern, using vinyl seats where the FJ had leather. The FJ Holden had taller gearing than the Ford, but 65 km/h was the practical second gear limit in both cars - and both took 12 to 13 seconds to reach 80 km/h if you wrung them out, but neither car was designed to be thrashed, and to enjoy your motoring you had to take it easy.

Winning the Monte Carlo Rally

The Zephyr never got the recognition it deserved in Australia. It was about £100 ($200) dearer than the Holden and most buyers couldn't see the extra value. But in many ways it was a revolutionary design, while the Holden was conservatively efficient and practical. The English Fords were the first cars to use the MacPherson strut independent front suspension and this gave them a handling edge over most cars of the time. It may even go part of the way towards explaining how a Zephyr managed to win the 1953 Monte Carlo ahead of Jaguars and Citroens. Those early MacPherson struts, however, did lead to several wheel wobble problems in well-worn models.

As mentioned above, it was in 1953 that a Ford Zephyr Six driven by Maurice Gatsonides won the Monte Carlo rally, pushing a Jaguar Mark VII into second place in the process. Two years later a Ford Zephyr Six driven by Vic Preston with D P Marwaha won the East African Safari Rally. A saloon tested by The Motor magazine in 1951 had a top speed of 79.8 mph (128.4 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in just 20.2 seconds. A fuel consumption of 23.7 miles per imperial gallon (11.9 L/100 km; 19.7 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £842 including taxes but was fitted with optional leather trim, heater and radio (the basic car cost UK£842).
Ford Zephyr Six Mark 1

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